BOONVILLE — Four years ago on Oct. 15, 2012, Meme Mckenzie Brown lost her battle to ovarian cancer. Every year since her passing, Meme’s family and friends have gathered at Sanders Ridge Winery in Boonville to celebrate Meme’s life and raise money for her scholarship foundation. This year was the fourth year the event was held, and it was a night filled with remembrance, tears, but most importantly it was filled with love.
Brown’s 97-year-old great-grandmother was in attendance, as well as various other members of her family, her close friends, and the members of the Boonville community. Meme’s aunt, Mariena Shore, was the one who came up with the idea to hold “Girl’s Night Out” in remembrance of Meme’s life.
“I wanted to do this event to remember Meme. I wanted to contribute to her legacy and have a way for her family and friends to get together,” said Shore. “Her smile and her laugh were my favorite things. She was always happy, and she wanted everyone to be happy. She wanted people to get along and forgive one another.”
All around the room, people were talking about their memories of Brown and how she had such an impact on those around her in her short life. Most of Brown’s friends were in attendance, and they all had their own personal memories that they shared with Brown. Her friends and family also shared their favorite things about Brown, most included her laugh and her smile.
“My favorite thing about Meme was that she loved everybody. She was the sweetest person to be around,” said Kayla Grant. “She made everyone feel welcome, and we were immediately best friends. She was just amazing, and I loved her.”
Brown was an active member in her church, Boonville Baptist, where she received an honor for 12 years of perfect attendance. Brown was also an athlete at Starmount High School and Lees-McRae, where she played volleyball for two years until she was diagnosed with cancer. After her diagnosis, Brown transferred to Appalachian State, where she became a nursing major. Brown had such an impact on her academic advisor that she decided to make a scholarship at Appalachian in remembrance of Brown.
“She was always full of surprises, and I just really enjoyed talking to her. She was always happy, and wanting to have fun,” said Brown’s cousin, Jennifer Hiatt. “Every year at Christmas she would be the very last one to open her presents. She would always wait for us to open our presents because she wanted to see us open ours and she wanted to savor every moment of Christmas. She savored every moment of her life, she was living it to the fullest.”
Throughout the night guests dined on food provided by Sanders Ridge, heard live music courtesy of Darlene Caudle, and even had the chance to win door prizes. The guests also were able to purchase a bottle of wine called Meme’s Sparkling Wine, with $5 of every bottle going towards the Meme Mckensie Brown “Fight Like a Girl” Fund.
During the event Brown’s dad, David Brown, thanked everyone for their support, and how for the past four years everyone has helped him remember Meme in a positive way. Another major part of the event came during the toast, which Brown’s best friend, Mary Katherine Taylor, gave in honor of Meme. Taylor talked about her memories of Meme and how they had became sweeter and sweeter every year.
“My favorite memory would have to be when Meme and I were younger, about 4 or 5 years old, and I had just got a four-wheeler,” said Taylor. “I was driving my four-wheeler and she was on the back and I asked her if she was ready. She told me she was, so I took off and Meme went flying off the back. David and Sharon came running, but she didn’t get hurt!”
Other friends, coaches and teachers of Brown also shared some of their favorite memories. Roseanna Laws, one of Brown’s best friends, expressed that her favorite memory about Brown was how they were both baptized on the same day and how during a volleyball match Brown had to play back row, which she never played, and when she went to dig the ball she hit it so hard that it hit the rafters.
Heather Tysinger, a former coach of Brown’s, had several favorite memories but one that stood out was how she earned the name “Trigger.” During volleyball tryouts, Brown would raise her right leg while jumping for a kill. Tysinger called Brown out on it and gave her a new nickname, which she was known by to her coaches and her teammates.
Shore also shared her favorite memory, which was about Brown building a shelf for her bathroom.
“When I moved into my condo I was trying to put together a shelf for my bathroom. Meme came down and put it together for me,” said Shore. “Every time I dust or look at that shelf, I think about Meme. I look at it and I just remember that she put it together for me.”
For everyone who knew Brown, their world became a little dimmer after her passing. Now, four years later the pain is still there, but people are beginning to remember how happy Brown was and how she was always smiling and laughing, even during the hard times of her life.
“Meme was always smiling, it didn’t matter what she had going on. Even when she was diagnosed she would always be smiling. She was bubbly all of the time,” said Amanda Pruitt, a former teacher of Brown’s. “I loved to watch her play volleyball. She was always enthusiastic, and she never lost her spunk through the whole sickness.”
Although Brown may be gone, her family and friends have made it their mission to remember her by providing scholarships at Starmount and Forbush. The scholarship goes to a senior girl whose attributes and personality resemble Brown’s. Those who would like to make a donation to the Meme Mckensie Brown “Fight Like a Girl” Fund can send a check to the North Carolina Community Foundation, 4601 Six Forks Road, Suite 524, Raleigh, NC 27609, or contact Boonville First Citizens Bank. Scholarships are available at Starmount High School and Forbush High School. To obtain more information on how to apply for the scholarship, contact a guidance counselor at either high school. All donations are tax deductible, and may be made at any time.
“You had to wonder if she lived every minute of every day to the fullest because she knew she had to pack a full life into those 21 years. Her faith was so strong, she never questioned ‘why me,’” said Meme’s mom, Sharon Brown. “Even though she was in the hospital sick, she still had time for other people. Meme was about to check in to the emergency room, but she was talking to one of her roommates on the phone who was having her own trouble. Meme never put herself first, she wanted other people to be happy.
“One of the greatest things is that I’m known as Meme’s mom,” said Sharon Brown. “People will come up to me and ask how they know me, and I’ll ask if they knew Meme. It was just fun being her mom.”
Kristian Russell may be reached at 336-258-4052.